Gleeful evil witch

Gleeful evil witch
Cinema still: Seventh Son starring Julianne Moore

When an actor does a flagrantly commercial film that seems so far removed from the serious stuff he is known and respected for, the reaction often is: What was he thinking?

Moviegoers who appreciate Julianne Moore, in particular, will probably be baffled to see her in the fantasy flick Seventh Son, which opens in Singapore today.

Aimed at the young-adult market, it has the four-time Oscar nominee - acclaimed for her masterfully understated performances in films such as Boogie Nights (1997), The End Of The Affair (1999) and The Hours (2002) - hamming it up as an evil witch.

But while the part cannot have been particularly taxing for the star, she delivers it with campy relish, pretty much doing everything short of cackling as she scowls through her scenes in a black dress and heavy eyeliner.

Speaking to Life! and other press in New York earlier this month, she explains this latest role scratched an itch for her.

"Well, I wanted to play a wicked witch," says Moore, radiantly buoyant as she celebrates her 54th birthday on the day of the interview. "I think you have to play one of those once in your career and it was a fun, right-out-there evil, nutty character, so it was fun for me."

Based on a young-adult novel by British author Joseph Delaney, the story pits Moore's vengeful character, Mother Malkin, against The Spook (Jeff Bridges), a man who fights supernatural baddies, and his young apprentice Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes), who as the seventh-born son of a seventh son may have special powers to stop her.

An old-fashioned fantasy quest, it gave Moore - who specialises in playing vulnerable and emotionally tortured women - a chance to switch gears and break out her pantomime. "I like the mercurial nature of the witch. All that stuff is really entertaining," she says.

And like any actress worth her salt, she has thought through Mother Malkin's back story and come to her own conclusions about what might motivate this seemingly two-dimensional villain.

"It's based on a very well-known middle-school novel called The Spook's Apprentice and it's a really sweet book. So when we were doing this, I read that book and thought it really is about growing up and the process of maturation - who are you going to be and what do you choose, good or evil," says Moore.

"So it's basically all about human nature and the complexity of it and the choices you make. And the thing about myths and fantasy is that all of those characters are manifestations of feelings - big feelings."

Being a best-selling children's author herself, the actress also took a special interest in the young-adult novel it was adapted from.

"It was interesting to me that it was a children's novel because that's how kids start to understand what these emotions are," says Moore, who wrote her first book, Freckleface Strawberry, a 2007 New York Times bestseller, after her son Caleb, now 17, said he was insecure about his freckled skin, just as she was when she was growing up. "And that's what movies are for - they're for us to explore our emotions," says the star, who also has a 12-year-old daughter, Liv, with her director husband Bart Freundlich, 44.


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